Dead Island 2 uses a deep skill card system that allows you to further customize your Slayer character beyond their initial starting build. You’ll unlock new skill cards early and often throughout the 15-hour story mode, but they won’t all come in handy. Some are much better than others, including an early binary decision that, though it can be reversed, features a clear better and worse option. Here are the best skills to unlock in Dead Island 2.
Dead Island 2’s best skills
The skill tree is broken into four categories: Abilities, Survivor, Slayer, and Numen. This guide will contain light spoilers as some late-game skills give away plot points, so just know that in advance. If that doesn’t bother you, then continue onward. Even if you are spoiler-wary, you can still read about the best skills in the first two categories, Abilities and Survivor.
This one is very important, as you can only equip dodge or block. You can change them at will, but everyone on our team agreed: Dodge is superior.
Similarly, you can equip flying kick or drop kick, but not both at the same time. The flying kick does more damage, but the drop kick sends zombies flying in a way that both gives you breathing room and is honestly a joy to witness.
Special Attack – Dash Strike
You’ll eventually have your choice of three special moves in this slot, and though we like them all, Dash Strike is a great choice, in part because of some other skill cards we’ll recommend later that pair well with this one. We’ll add, however, that War Cry might be just as helpful if you’re playing in co-op.
A few skills in this section are Autophage skills, which we won’t often recommend in this guide, as they always come with caveats. They’re basically Dead Island 2’s idea of cursed skills that have both pros and cons. Blood Rush is great because, paired with dodge, you can counter attacks to build Fury, the meter you drain when using a mid-game special attack that you are going to love if you don’t have it yet.
The last skill card slot in this first category lets you mimic one of the game’s Apex Variant zombies while in Fury mode, namely the crusher, screamer, or slobber. You can’t really go wrong here, but we like the ground pound, as it’s a nice finishing move to apply right before your Fury runs out.
The Survivor category has 17 cards to choose from, and any of them can go in any of your four slots here. We’ve highlighted the best ones below.
This card gives you more Fury for zombie kills while in Fury, meaning you can keep Fury mode active longer so long as you are racking up the zombie arms, legs, and heads.
This pairs with Dash Strike and provides you with a health boost whenever you use it. It’s a great way to regain HP and clear your personal space–two things you’ll need to do often in this game.
One of the earlier unlocks in the game, Safe Space delivers an area-of-effect blast every time you use a med kit, which throws encroaching zombies back and gives you some breathing room. As you can tell, that’s a theme with our favorite skill cards, as the undead are constantly in your face in Dead Island 2.
This is arguably the game’s best skill card. It allows you to launch into Fury mode when your Fury meter is only half full. This is a true lifesaver as some later enemies are really spongey and Fury makes quick work of almost everyone.
We made the mistake of not really throwing weapons much until late in the game, but it can be really effective, especially with this skill which adds an explosive effect to every on-target toss.
This one adds yet more explosions, but only when you kill an enemy in Fury mode. Still, with Short Fuse, that can be pretty often, so keep the fireworks coming.
This is one of my personal favorites, but I think you’ll love it too. It allows your Curveball items to recharge faster whenever you land hits with it, and it stacks according to the number of hits you get, so a grenade that destroys three zombies will recharge even faster than one or two, for example.
The Limb Reaper
You’ll be hacking arms and legs off of zombies very often in this game, so you may as well earn some health back for your maiming efforts. That’s what this skill card allows for, making it one of the best in the game whether you’re playing co-op or solo.
If you love status effects–and you should–this card makes them even more effective, as any zombie killed by a status effect will explode like a bomb made of that status effect. It sends fire, electricity, or other effects outward into the horde.
This is the game’s idea of a last-chance type of card. It takes what would be a killing blow to you and instead creates an explosion that drains Fury. You can then heal by doing damage to get back in the fight.
As you can see, I set out to create a particular type of character: one who loves AoE attacks, who needs their personal space, who can heal themselves like Wolverine, and who finds joy in blowing things up. Given the way this game throws hordes right at your face for 15-30 hours, I strongly recommend this build, but with dozens of cards to choose from, I’m sure other great builds are possible too. Whatever you decide, don’t go it alone. Take our Dead Island 2 guides with you.
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